April 22 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an effort to challenge life sentences for juveniles, saying they could be imprisoned without the possibility of parole without a separate factual finding the defendant can't be rehabilitated.
The court voted along ideological lines, with the six conservative justices saying such a finding was not needed while the three liberal justices disagreed.
The ruling affirms a Mississippi court's sentence for Brett Jones at 15 in 2004 when he killed his grandfather with a kitchen knife during a domestic dispute. Jones attorneys argued that the life sentence violated his constitutional protections.
Jones contended a separate factual finding needed to be made that he was permanently incorrigible or at least provide an on-the-record sentencing explanation with an implicit finding that the defendant is permanently incorrigible.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in writing the court's opinion, said while states could impose such measures before sentences, "the U.S. Constitution, as this court's precedents have interpreted it, does not demand those particular policy approaches."
In writing the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote "Jones and other juvenile offenders like him seek only the possibility of parole. Not the certainty of release, but the opportunity, at some point in their lives, to show a parole board all they have done to rehabilitate themselves and to ask for a second chance."
Sotomayor accused the majority of "misreading" court precedent involving juveniles and life sentences.